Those who view Racine’s public schools as rat-infested hellholes that crank out illiterate thugs at enormous expense need to see and hear what I saw and heard last week.
The packed room at the Racine PTA Council’s annual scholarship and awards banquet could scarcely hold the button-busting pride. School Board members, administrators, principals, parents, other family and friends were grinning wall-to-wall – for good reason.
The event celebrated some outstanding achievements by 25 soon-to-graduate seniors, each of whom was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. That’s $25,000 donated by local PTAs, schools, businesses and individuals.
To me, the best part of the evening was hearing the incredible stories of accomplishment by young people who are wrapping up their high school careers at Racine Unified schools. Let me a share a few of them with you:
Kayla Pena (Case High) suffered a severe concussion while playing high school softball earlier this year. That experience reinforced her decision to pursue a healthcare career. She’ll be studying pre-med and biology at UW-Madison with future goals of becoming a doctor of sports medicine and conduct research in pediatric medicine.
Taylor Taggart (Park High) admitted to hanging around with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble until an encounter with a Racine Police officer opened her eyes. Officer Eric convinced her that she needed to change her ways, and she did. Taylor now wants to become a police officer and will be attending Gateway Technical College to earn an associate degree in law enforcement, and then enroll in the police academy. She hopes that in time, she can help protect Racine, the community where she grew up.
Uniqua Flowers (REAL School) dreamed of becoming a plastic surgeon and has already gotten a running start by taking part in UW-Parkside’s “Doctors of our Community” pre-college program where she shadowed medical professionals. The next step in Uniqua’s dream is earning a chemistry and medical degree from Howard University and eventually conducting medical research.
Danielle Worden (Park High) decided to seek a degree in pharmacy so she could use her three favorite high school courses – calculus, chemistry and physics. In her essay, she wrote: “I never like to give up on anything. When you give up on something, you will never know what that could bring you or do for you.” Danielle will begin a pre-pharmacy program at UW-Green Bay and then transfer to pharmacy school at UW-Madison.
That’s just a small sample of the variety and quality of this year’s scholarship winners. There are many, many more like them out there. As graduation approaches, I hope you’ll take the time to learn their stories whether through Patch’s ongoing “Whiz Kids” feature or by meeting them in person. I’m sure you’ll come away as impressed as I was Monday – and every year at this time.
You won’t get an argument from me that Racine’s public schools – and U.S. public education in general – face some genuine challenges. But you should also know that our public schools produce some outstanding, promising young people. There’s reason for hope.